Strengthening State and Local Government Finances: Lessons for Negotiating Public Pension Plan Reforms


This report offers lessons from five governments — Iowa, Oregon, Vermont, Gwinnett County (GA), and Houston (TX) — that have reformed their pension plans to make them more fiscally sustainable while still providing retirement security to their employees. It offers lessons for other reform-minded governments, on plan funding and governance, the importance of using good data from experts, communication, governance, and financial education.

Christine Becker, Alex Brown, Joshua Franzel Ph.D., Elizabeth Kellar, and Danielle Miller Wagner of the Center for State and Local Government Excellence and Paula Sanford, PhD, of the University of Georgia
Publication date:
September 2011
Filed under:
Research Studies
Key findings:
  • Pensions should be viewed as part of a broader human resources strategy that can affect recruitment and retention.
  • Policy makers need high quality data and analyses as they consider benefit changes.
  • Strong communication with all stakeholders helps employees, elected officials, and the public understand the need for change.
  • Discipline in funding a plan’s annual required contribution is important to achieve full funding.
  • Workplace financial education will help public employees learn how to build their retirement savings.
Download publication:
Strengthening S & L Govt Finances

View June 2012 update


Unions Play an Important Role in Pension Reform

The Center’s interactive map tracks a sample of state and local pension reforms made within the past 10 years. The map, which offers the location and details of the reforms along with links to more information, is updated frequently.